As a former Global Health Corps Fellow, I was excited to have the opportunity to work with the Allegheny County Health Department on a proposal to increase HPV immunization rates.
Given the original aim of the project to increase HPV immunization rates in particular, our initial concepts centered around targeting HPV through channels such as videos and text-message reminder systems. However, as our research efforts progressed, we realized we needed to reframe the problem space and focus on increasing immunization rates in the county in general.
The research that led to our decision to reframe our problem space spanned a variety of sources and methods. To ground ourselves in the subject matter, we reviewed recent articles on vaccination rates, HPV-specific research, public health campaigns, relevant decision science papers, information about Allegheny County specifically, and other initiatives undertaken by the Health Department. To better understand existing attitudes towards vaccination rates, we disseminated a survey to parents. To get a deeper understanding of how parents make immunization choices for their children, we interviewed several parents in our network.
Our synthesis of our interview, survey, and desk research revealed that focusing on HPV specifically would draw unnecessary negative attention to that immunization in particular. Parents want knowledge about all vaccines, not just HPV, and an easier way to keep track of their child's immunization schedule. Moreover, while most parents get information from social media, their most trusted information source is their child's pediatrician.
Based on this insight, we decide to pivot to a long-term solution that targets immunization rates in general, thereby normalizing the HPV vaccine. We decided a mobile application would be the best format for providing parents comprehensive information as well as appointment reminders. However, in order to impart the authority of the application, we knew it would have to be recommended by a parent's chosen pediatrician. In order to do so, we designed a physical folder that a pediatrician would give to a parent on their first well-child visit (within the first few days of the child being born). We designed the folder to incorporate the immunization schedule as well as information about how to download the application.
After running past this concept by the Allegheny County Health Department representative that was working with us, we dove deeper into designing the application. While initially we thought including additional information about well-child visits would increase the value of the application, we realized that it would contribute to information overload. As such, we streamlined the application to focus on three core features: individual immunization records and reminders, an immunization-specific newsfeed, and a community group database.
By providing parents with trustworthy information and resources as well as practical reminders and record-keeping tools, ImmunityEd makes it easier for parents to make a confident choice to vaccinate their children.